Despite outstanding individual performances from Gary Coulson and Jonathan Ellse Great Melton C managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory against Topcroft at Town Close.
The visitors, invited to bat on a damp wicket, were stunned by a terrific opening spell by 14-year-old Ben Johnson whose first 5 overs went for just 3 runs – one a no-ball! At the other end Coulson’s nagging line and length on a slow pitch caused all sorts of problems for the batsmen as the veteran seamer took 3 early wickets to add to one from Johnson leaving Topcroft 8-4. It soon became 40-5 as Alice Greenslade (5-2-12-1) bowled an excellent spell & picked up the wicket of Holmes, caught by dad, Duncan. It seemed like Topcroft would be bowled out for considerably less than a hundred but, as the wicket dried out, Ben Davey and Guy Owen showed some resistance.
Liam Stevens, on his debut, also bowled well to return figures of 5-0-17-0 as did Duncan Greenslade (5-0-23-0) but skipper Steve Phoenix (6-0-32-0) struggled to find a consistent length as the batsmen began to play with greater confidence. A partnership of 48 took Topcroft to 88 before Davey was run out by Jim Wimhurst for 30. Johnson returned to complete a spell of 9-3-30-1 but it was Coulson who eventually removed Owen for a patient 52 before cleaning up the tail for his best-ever figures for Melton of 9.1-3-22-7. Topcroft were all out for 143 – a remarkable recovery on a difficult wicket which meant a testing run chase for Melton’s batsmen.
They started badly with Clive Gristwood out lbw in Topcroft skipper Harold Van Zanten’s first over but Phoenix and Ellse played patiently, Ellse quick to punish any wayward bowling, as the score moved steadily to 70-1 at drinks. The curse of the drinks break struck as 2 balls after Phoenix top-edged a pull and was caught at square-leg for 24. Duncan Greenslade joined Ellse who went to his half-century and was scoring freely. It looked as if Melton were moving towards an inevitable victory as the total progressed to 120-2, leaving them needing just 24 to win with 8 wickets and 11 overs. Then the wheels came off!
Ellse was bowled by Van Zanten for a fine 72, even better because it was made on a difficult wicket; Greenslade followed immediately for 21, Wimhurst went for a first ball duck and Johnson for a second ball one and Topcroft were suddenly were back in the game. Olli Leinster (6) and Chris Brook (7) edged Melton to within one shot of victory but the pressure told and two silly run outs ended the innings with Melton 4 runs short.
Lee Ellis with excellent figures of 10-3-13-3 and Van Zanten with 10-3-27-3 were the stand-out bowlers as the visitors won a game they never looked likely to. Melton were left deflated to say the least. After some good performances it was poor game management that caused their collapse and prevented them from getting over the line.
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